A family in Utah faces the unthinkable just a few years after they lost their three-year-old son to cancer: Now both father and their two-year-old daughter are also battling cancer.
Nate Bowen, 41, and his wife Allison had already gone through hell when their son Crosby died suddenly in 2018, just a month before his third birthday, due to what they later learned was a brain tumor.
But when their two-year-old daughter Annabelle was diagnosed with cancer last year, doctors began testing to find out why this had happened to two toddlers in the same family, according to Today.
They quickly discovered that Annabelle has a rare genetic condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which can increase the risk of cancer.
When genetic tests revealed that Nate also had the condition, he began undergoing regular cancer screenings – and in September, doctors told him they had found a tumor in his brain.
Nate Bowen, 41, and his two-year-old daughter Annabelle are both battling cancer at the same time
Nate and Allison Bowen also have an eight-year-old son named Dalton and a four-year-old daughter named Tessa
In 2018, they tragically lost their son Crosby just a month before his third birthday
The Bownes’ one-in-a-million story began in 2018 when their son Crosby – who they described as a ‘stupid kid’ with a ‘big laugh’ – suddenly fell ill with fatigue and vomiting.
Their family doctor thought it was just a virus, but Crosby gradually got worse over the course of a week.
Although they said none of his symptoms indicated he had a brain tumor, his condition worsened enough that they took him to the hospital.
‘On the way to the hospital, it’s likely he had a massive heart attack or stroke or something like that and stopped breathing. We did not know, Bowen said. “But we could see that he was declining really fast.”
Doctors told the family Crosby was brain dead and they soon took him from life support.
“It was just very traumatic because it was so sudden,” Bowen said. ‘We got great care and they brought in a pediatrician to help the kids say goodbye to him.’
Crosby became ill from fatigue and vomiting and died just a week after his symptoms began
The Bowen family later found out that their son killed was a brain tumor
Last year, Annabelle had a bump on her leg and the Bowen family found out she also had cancer. She underwent surgery and started chemotherapy
Doctors ran genetic tests and found out that Annabelle has a genetic condition that increased her chances of getting cancer
They later learned through a CT scan that Crosby had a grade 4 glioblastoma, a ‘very aggressive brain tumor.’
After some time of grief, Nate, Allison, and their other children – Dalton, now 8, and Tessa, now 4 – welcomed a new addition to their family: Annabelle.
Annabelle started having health problems in late 2020 when her parents noticed a bulge on her leg.
In February 2021, she was also diagnosed with cancer after and MRI found rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer of the muscles.
She underwent rapid surgery and chemotherapy, which she is completing this month.
But doctors were curious as to why two of the Bowen children developed cancer and ran some genetic tests.
The whole family was tested, and Nate discovered that he also had the disease, so he started regular screenings for different types of cancer.
Last fall, doctors found a brain tumor and operated on to remove most of it. But due to increased risk of more cancer, he is not getting chemo
“My daughter who got cancer led to my genetic test, which led to cancer screenings, and hopefully allowed us to catch it early enough,” he said.
“When you have multiple children who are young people who have cancer, there is typically this genetic mutation that is often associated with it,” Nate said.
They discovered that Annabelle has Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a mutation in the TP53 gene. TP53 typically prevents tumor growth, but the mutation does not.
Although the mutation can occur spontaneously, it can also be genetic – so the rest of the family was tested.
Only Nate also had the condition, so he started getting regular cancer screenings. That’s how doctors in September found a large brain tumor, grade 2 astrocytoma, during an MRI.
He has since had about 90 percent of the tumor removed, but while his daughter is undergoing chemo, he is not because it could cause him to develop even more cancer.
“We’re really had to narrow our focus and be like, ‘OK, I can get through today,’ or ‘I can get through this week,'” Nate said.
“I’ve really grown to see my wife in a different light and really respect the woman she is and how strong she is,” Nate added.
Although Nate and Annabelle are likely to always deal with the threat of cancer – and regular tests and screening – the family does its best to stay positive, in part by turning to their faith.
“We’ve had to really narrow our focus and be like, ‘OK, I can get through today,’ or ‘I can get through this week,'” Nate said.
Plus, he added: ‘My daughter who got cancer led to my genetic test, which led to cancer screenings, and hopefully made it possible for us to catch it early enough. It’s one of those bittersweet things that comes out of it badly. But there is a good deal. ‘
He said his relationship with his wife has also grown stronger.
‘I’ve really grown to see my wife in a different light and really respect the woman she is and how strong she is. Our love for one another has grown through trials and we try to be as positive as we can. ‘